Social Justice Series

Libraries Working Towards Social Justice

In a series of programs held in 2020 and 2021, the Burlington Public Library explored current social justice issues, including systemic racism, voter suppression, the criminal justice system, climate and race, and immigration.  Many of our programs were recorded so that they could be replayed. 


The Library partnered with Burlington High School to make these programs available to both the students of Burlington and the Burlington community.   We also collaborated with and shared resources with other area libraries.  "Libraries Working Towards Social Justice," was formed in 2020 to expand our programming efforts beyond our individual communities to achieve a more equitable diverse and inclusive society.  The libraries included Andover, Burlington, Chelmsford, Groton, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Methuen, Newton, North Andover, North Reading, Tewksbury, Westford, and Wilmington.

Past Events

Exploring Systemic Racism – A panel discussion

Picture of panelists

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE

Mr. Devon Crawford, Dr. Brandon Crowley, and Rev. Alicia Johnson will hold a panel discussion on systemic racism.  Systemic racism is embedded as normal practice in nearly every aspect of American life.  It refers to the systems in place that maintain racial inequities by creating disparities in the criminal justice system, employment, housing, health care, politics, and education.  Systemic racism is particularly insidious because we may not even recognize that it exists.  

Mr. Devon Jerome Crawford is the Director of the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  Dr. Brandon Crowley serves as the Senior Pastor of The Historic Myrtle Baptist Church of West Newton, MA and as an adjunct instructor for Harvard Divinity School.  The Reverend Alicia Marie Johnson serves as the Assistant Pastor of the Historic Myrtle Baptist Church and as the Assistant Director of the MIT/Wellesley Upward Bound Program.  

Voter Suppression with Dave Daley 

Dave Daleycropped

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE

Voter suppression did not end with Jim Crow.  New barriers to the ballot box have been erected and these new barriers disproportionately affect racial minorities.  Dave Daley, of FairVote and author of "Unrigged", will speak about the tactics used to limit the ability of voters to exercise their right to vote.

Immigration: Current Perspectives and Changing the Conversation

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE.

As a part of the limmigrationibrary's Social Justice Series, the library invites immigration experts to discuss the support and protection of immigrant rights, how to be an ally to immigrants, and how to change the current conversation as it relates to immigrants in America. Join us as we learn from the talents and expertise of Denzil Mohammed (The ILC Public Education Institute Director), Margalit Tepper (Integration Projects Lead, Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition), and Violeta Haralampieva (Staff Attorney, PAIR Project).

Mass Incarceration: A Time For Reform with Alexi Jones

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE.

Jail CellMass incarceration is one of the most pressing social justice issues in the United States. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and our prisons and jails are disproportionately filled with Black people, people living in poverty, and people with mental health and substance use disorders.

Alexi Jones, a policy analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative, will break down some of the most pressing issues in criminal justice reform, including the shockingly high number of people who are locked up in the United States, the stark racial disparities throughout our criminal justice system, and areas that are ripe for reform.

Norman Rockwell: Inclusion, Exclusion and Evolving Views on Race with Jane Oneail

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE.

Painting titled The Problem We All Live WithNorman Rockwell is heralded for depicting and defining American life. He often captured bittersweet images of people experiencing universal and relatable feelings of being left out or left behind. Yet, as an artist working in the 20th century, his works are curiously devoid of America’s rich cultural and racial diversity. Toward the end of his career, Rockwell painted several poignant works about race in America that can be seen as an extension of his earlier sense of the power of inclusion and exclusion.  

Jane Oneail is an independent scholar and holds a master's in Art History from Boston University and a master's in Art in Education from Harvard University.

Author E. Dolores Johnson in Conversation with Grace Talusan

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE.

E. Dolores Johnson with book cover of "Say I'm Dead."

E. Dolores Johnson will discuss her new book with author, Grace Talusan. Say I'm Dead, A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets and Love is a multi-generational memoir that reveals America's changing attitudes toward race mixing.

Johnson's parents fled to Buffalo from Indianapolis so they could marry without violating Indiana's anti-miscegenation laws. Her father was black and her mother was white. Johnson details her journey unearthing the secrets of her family, and in so doing, wrestles with identity, class, and education, aiming a potent lens at what it means to be biracial and shining more light on the racism that continues to sicken this country to this day.

About the Interviewer: 

Grace Talusan's memoir, The Body Papers,  is a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection, a winner in nonfiction for the Massachusetts Book Awards, and winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.

Rights & Wrongs: Black Women and the History of Voting  with Dr. Kellie Carter-Jackson

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE

Dr. Carter-Jackson

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. Join us for the history of Black women and their pivotal roles in the women's suffrage movement and the Voting Rights Act. Dr. Jackson will explore the history of the vote in the African American community, including rampant voter suppression, and explore the ways Black women have advocated for political change with their voices and eventually their votes. 

About the Presenter:

Dr. Kellie Carter-Jackson is the Knafel Assistant Professor of the Humanities in the Department of Africana Studies at Wellesley College.

Race and Climate Justice with Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Esq.

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE.

IvanWith the advent of COVID-19, the intersection of race and environmental discrimination became apparent as low-income communities of color and immigrant communities were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.  Addressing the impact of COVID-19 won’t end these disparities, however, as climate change continues to adversely impact these communities and create climate refugees.   At the same time, the 'green economy' is providing an opportunity for individuals not only to address these climate disparities but to benefit from the economic opportunities presented by a growing industry.

About the Presenter:

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Esq., Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, is an expert in legal protections for people of color and immigrants. He has filed and won dozens of life-changing and law-changing cases across the country on behalf of people of color and immigrants. He advises federal and state policymakers on the legal needs of marginalized communities. His work is regularly featured in publications such as the New York Times.

Where Do We Go From Here?  Why We Need Reparations for Black Americans with Dr. Brandon Crowley

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE.

Dr. CrowleyJoin Dr. Crowley as he speaks about the economic injustices that have persisted since slavery and how these injustices have led to a wealth gap between white and Black Americans.  How can we as a nation go about righting these wrongs? What role would reparations play and how would eligibility be determined?

About the Presenter:

Brandon Thomas Crowley PhD is a scholar in ecclesiology and theology. He serves as the Senior Pastor of The Historic Myrtle Baptist Church of West Newton and as an adjunct instructor at Harvard Divinity School.

The Cooking Gene: Tracing My African American Story Through Food with Michael Twitty

If you missed this live discussion, you can watch the recording HERE.

The Cooking Gene -Book CoverJoin Michael W. Twitty for an engaging evening moderated by Chef Bill, a Massachusetts-based chef and author. You can follow Michael Twitty on his popular blog, Afroculinara.

For African American culinary historian Michael W. Twitty, there was a giant hole in the story of American cooking as big as the one in the story of most African American families. Putting the microscope on himself, Michael decided to fully trace out his family history through the story of Southern and American food. Using genetic research, historic interpretation, nature study, heirloom gardening and interviews with contemporary voices in food, his journey led him back to his family’s origins in West and Central Africa and a front ring seat in the debate over race and food in American life.